Arnhem and Nijmegen drop blackface from Sinterklaas processions

A Zwarte Piet protest. Photo: Constablequackers via Wikimedia Commons
A Zwarte Piet protest. Photo: Constablequackers via Wikimedia Commons

Nijmegen and Arnhem have become the latest two Dutch cities to banish blackface from their Sinterklaas processions in November, broadcaster RTL reported.

Nijmegen, which is to use sooty and other coloured Piets in its procession, took the decision to drop blackface following a motion from councillors and last week’s anti-racism demonstration in the city, RTL said.

In Arnhem, a majority of councillors also voted to change ‘the racist caricature of Zwarte Piet’ on Wednesday evening.

The moves come a week after prime minister Mark Rutte admitted to altering his views on Zwarte Piet, the controversial sidekick of Sinterklaas who is traditionally played by a white person in blackface makeup.

During a debate in parliament on Thursday evening, Rutte said his perspective on Zwarte Piet had undergone ‘major changes‘.

The prime minister went on to say that he had met many people ‘with dark skins’ who said they feel discriminated against because Zwarte Piet is black. ‘And that is the last thing that we want during the Sinterklaas celebrations,’ Rutte said.

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